Due to the tragic consequences of bullying, a multitude of laws, programs and policies have been enacted to curtail this aggressive and damaging behavior. Even seemingly minor actions such as name calling can have lasting effects upon the psyche of those that must tolerate such ridicule from others.
Many times, observers of bullying do not know what to do. Parents may try to step in or may advise their children to simply ignore the bullying. Unfortunately, such action may simply cause the bullying to escalate. Friends may be afraid to help because they do not want to become the new source of ridicule.
Types of Bullying
Varying kinds of bullying exist and can haunt others. Physical abuse of another may result in bruises, cuts, scrapes, and even broken bones. When taken too far, one may take the life of another even if accidentally. Verbal mistreatment may have the most lasting effects upon a person. This type of cruelty tends to take certain characteristics one may be most vulnerable about and exploit them for the world to see as ridicule. Because this kind is usually not physical, it may have lasting effects that cause the person to doubt themselves and suffer from low self-esteem. It may even cause them to take their own life if this type of harm goes on for too long, or if it goes too far. Another form of bullying is indirect. This could be as little as spreading rumors, or it could be as vicious as causing someone else to directly threaten a person.
Due to the high number of suicides and negative effects of bullying, many schools have created programs to fight this nasty form or abuse. In fact, the law requires the implementation of such policies. In addition to the mandated policies, some schools have created clubs to band together and stop bullying in its tracks. Others have had conferences where teachers learn exactly what constitutes bullying and how to combat it.
Laws regarding bullying vary from state to state. Some states have offenses related to threatening behavior that are activated if a child is threatened by another student. If the abuse took a sexual form, the criminal offense may be labeled as “Indecent Assault.” Assault charges may be filed if a student physically assaulted your child.
State laws often contain very specific provisions and procedures that must be met and followed. For example, Arizona’s Protection from Harassment Act requires the perpetrator to commit multiple transgressions before the law will be triggered. Some states base damage claims on the legal theory of negligence if a student’s bodily harm or mental anguish can be substantiated through professional health confirmation. Some states have a statute of limitations of merely one year by which a legal claim must be filed.
Many bullies in the 21st century are online bullies. Mobile devices, smart phones, tablets, laptops and a solid Internet connection make it easier for students to log on and post nasty comments about another student. Sometimes, a person uses chat rooms or emails to send a flurry of hateful messages. In other instances, the bully uses a fake profile or the anonymity of the Internet to say hurtful things to another student that he or she would not normally say if his or her identity was known. Historically, one of the difficulties of pursuing such cases against a school for not stopping the bullying was showing how the school was responsible for content outside of school hours. Another difficulty was that the conduct did not necessarily fit into a typical criminal statute. New legal theories have emerged to solve both problems.
Education and Prevention
Schools need to explain to the students that bullying is not tolerated. Schools may attempt to curb bullying by having ongoing communication with students about school policies and criminal offenses that prohibit such conduct. Conferences and training can help inform staff and students about recognizing bullying, methods to prevent bullying and solving issues related to bullying. Legal recourse is available for those that experience these issues. Individuals who are being adversely affected by bullying may wish to discuss the issue with a lawyer who has experience in personal injury law and education law. Many lawyers will offer free consultations for students that have experienced offensive behavior and can provide an evaluation of the legal remedies that may be available.
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.